On Thursday morning the Umodzi team, volunteers of COWLHA (Coalition of Women Living with HIV /AIDS) travelled to Liwaladzi, eager to meet the Timasukilane Support Group. The lord had sent us another beautiful sunny day and spirits were high throughout the team. 

Upon our arrival we were given a very warm welcome. The moment the support group saw us coming towards them they all stood up and began singing and dancing to welcome us. There were hugs given all round and smiles on everyone’s faces.

The meeting began with a prayer, praising the lord is very important to Malawians and I love praising the lord!  After the prayer, our field officer Annie Kachale spoke to the group about the work COWLHA does and how they can help them with the challenges they face in the community; then it was time for more singing and dancing!

I love singing and dancing so much I didn't even mind how hot it was! The energy the women have is amazing and they dance so well! It makes you feel so grateful to be sharing that moment with them. The dancing is very energetic and sometimes we even get down on the floor! here is a picture of me learning some of their moves...

We all sat down in the breezy shade of the trees and got a chance to ask about some of the experienes and challenges they have faced wihilst living with HIV/AIDS. I was touched by the responses especially by one young girl who said when she told her friends about being HIV positive they laughed at her and made fun of her and as a result of this she ended up dropping out of school. It takes a lot of courage for someone to be open about their status, even more so when the person is only 16 years old. The young girl also explained how she was an orphan and had no motivation to go back to school. Being an orphan myself I really felt for her and decided to take her aside after the group and have a chat. I explained how even though I lost my parents in my early teens I still found the motivation to get myself through school and I'm planning on doing my Masters in business management soon. I feel proud of what I've achieved and told her there's nothing that should hold her back! She promised me that she'd go back to school and I made a promise to her to keep checking on how she was doing and be there for her to talk to if she needed someone.

We went on to ask them what plans they have for the future and got responses such as, to have a farm, send their children to a good school, build their own businesses etc. These answers made it clear to us how courageous the women have become and how empowered COWLHA has made them feel. They know their rights and they know that there is not difference between being HIV positive and being HIV negative in terms of what they can achieve. We ended the session with another prayer and as we were leaving the women thanked us and sent us on our way with more joyful singing and dancing.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog - I hope you enjoyed it!

By Malawian Progressio ICS volunteer Maggie Dambe